What is Insulin Resistance?

Insulin resistance is a condition in which the body’s cells become less responsive to the effects of insulin, a hormone produced by the beta cells in the pancreas. Insulin is central for regulating blood sugar (glucose) levels, facilitating the uptake of glucose by cells for energy.

What is Metabolic Syndrome?

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions that occur together, increasing the risk of heart disease, NASH, and type 2 diabetes. The precise medical definition and diagnostic criteria may vary slightly among different organizations, but a widely accepted definition is provided by the National Cholesterol Education Program Adult Treatment Panel III (NCEP-ATP III).

Supervised Weight Loss in Maryland

Struggling with obesity can present a challenging and complex journey. If you find yourself seeking effective and personalized assistance to address your weight loss concerns, collaborating with a board-certified obesity specialist might be the solution you’ve been searching for.

From obesity and triglycerides to pancreatitis

Obesity rates are rising worldwide. Acute pancreatitis is also on the rise. The authors of the current study followed prospectively about 120,000 individuals. As expected, they found a high correlation between BMI and acute pancreatitis events. Investigators also observed that hypertriglyceridemia could explain about 22-30% of the relationship between obesity and pancreatitis.

The results of the study, although not new, confirm prior research and knowledge that obesity leads to insulin resistance, which in turn elevates blood triglyceride concentration. Hypertriglyceridemia is a well-known specific cause of acute pancreatitis, especially when triglyceride measurements are above 500 mg/dL.

Clinically, it is essential to screen obesity patients for hypertriglyceridemia. A fasting lipid panel is a simple and inexpensive laboratory test that can provide significant insights into the patient’s risk of insulin resistance and pancreatitis.


Intensive weight loss eliminates type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes has traditionally been perceived as a non-reversible, progressive condition that eventually requires insulin therapy. Recent evidence, however, has been mounting in showing that type 2 diabetes, if diagnosed early, can be fully reversed with intense lifestyle modifications in a subset of patients.

In the current study published in Diabetic Medicine in September 2019, investigators followed prospectively about 900 adult diabetes patients age 40-70 over five years. Individuals who lost more than 10% of body weight within the first few years of the study, had the best chance of eliminating diabetes, as documented by A1c <6.5%.

At the study conclusion, 30% of adults achieved diabetes remission. Important to note that remission or reversal was accomplished independently of any specific lifestyle modifications, except the >10% weight loss.

More clinical trials are needed to confirm the above results. Nonetheless, intensive weight loss at the onset of diabetes diagnosis could be reasonable general advice for people who are overweight or obese.


New FDA approval: semaglutide, the first oral GLP-1 agonist for type 2 diabetes

The FDA has now approved the first oral semaglutide, Rybelsus, for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. This approval marks a breakthrough advancement in the field of clinical diabetology. Rybelsus is the first “protein” based molecule to be administered orally and not subcutaneously via an injection.

Oral administration of semaglutide is made possible through the use of SNAC compound. SNAC helps escort and transport the semaglutide intact across the gastrointestinal epithelial cells. It assists in bypassing the harsh acidic environment of the stomach.

Various clinical trials, under the name PIONEER, have consistently shown A1c improvements and weight loss benefits with Rybelsus – thus leading to this landmark FDA acceptance.

Rybelsus comes at three doses; 3, 7, and 14 milligrams. Patients should start at 3 mg per day for one month before advancing to the 7 mg, and if needed, to the 14 mg daily dosage. Rybelsus should be taken in an empty stomach, with no more than 4 ounces of plain water, and at least 30 minutes before breakfast.

Similar to other GLP-1 agonists, oral semaglutide can cause gastrointestinal side effects like nausea and diarrhea. Providers should be cautious when prescribing Rybelsus in those with a predisposed risk for pancreatitis, diabetic retinopathy, or kidney injury. It should not be prescribed in people with a personal or family history of medullary thyroid carcinoma.


Primary hyperaldosteronism in obesity

In this retrospective study, investigators analyzed a group of 400 adults with hypertension due to primary hyperaldosteronism. The study found that obese patients had smaller aldosterone-producing tumors than lower BMI counterparts. It appears that obese individuals had more aggressive – higher functioning – tumors in spite of their smaller size. Adrenalectomy led to a similar clinical outcome – blood pressure improvement – in patients with or without high BMI. Although these results need to be confirmed, it would be useful for endocrinologists, radiologists, and surgeons to be aware of this phenotype.


Ozempic is superior to Invokana in reducing A1c and body weight

The Lancets, Diabetes and Endocrinology has just published the results of SUSTAIN 8 clinical trial. The study compared the efficacy and safety of semaglutide 1.0 mg/week versus canagliflozin 300 mg/day in patients with uncontrolled diabetes taking only metformin.

Investigators recruited and followed a group of 800 adults with baseline A1c 7.0-10.5% from 111 centers in 11 countries. They found that the addition of semaglutide to metformin lowered A1c and body weight more than canagliflozin by 0.5% and 2.2 lbs respectively. The trial observed that patients receiving semaglutide experienced higher rates of nausea, while those taking canagliflozin developed more urinary tract infections.

Current ADA and AACE guidelines recommend the use of a GLP-1 agonist or SGLT-2 inhibitor after metformin in uncontrolled type 2 diabetes. Although the study did not compare GLP-1 agonists and SGLT-2 inhibitors as a class, it did suggest initiation of semaglutide 1.0 mg/week over SGLT-2 inhibitors. SGLT-2 inhibitors are regarded to be clinically similar.

An SGLT-2 inhibitor, however, would be a better second-line agent after metformin in diabetes patients with clinical or subclinical heart failure but with proper kidney function (eGFR >45). I anticipate that ADA and AACE guidelines will incorporate SUSTAIN 8 results in their next published standards.


Hypoglycemia due to gastric bypass surgery

Obesity and its complications are common, yet on the rise. Subsequently, gastric bypass surgery is on the rise too. Severe hypoglycemia can be a long-term complication of bariatric surgery. The most common method to negate or reduce hypoglycemia is dietary modifications. Patients need to consume small meals of a low glycemic index frequently. Medical therapies with acarbose, diazoxide, and octreotide are often not useful.

Here authors describe the utility of calcium channel blockers (CCBs) in two patients. Difficult to treat hypoglycemia developed in 8 and 13 years after the bypass procedure. Standard approach did not work. Only the use of nifedipine and verapamil improved patient’s resistant hypoglycemia. The proposed rationale is that CCBs reduce or delay insulin secretion by pancreatic beta cells.

Although more clinical studies are needed, it is essential to be aware of the potential benefits of CCBs. For some patients with refractory and devastating hypoglycemia, they could be the last resort. Additionally, physicians are already familiar with CCBs as they have been on the market for decades.


Oral “ozempic” lowers A1c and body weight in patients with type 2 diabetes

PIONEER 1 was a 26-week randomized clinical trial conducted in nine countries. It tested the efficacy and safety of oral semaglutide vs. placebo in diabetes patients with baseline A1c 8.0%. A group of 703 adults was monitored and analyzed.

At 24 weeks, the higher dose 14 mg of oral semaglutide reduced A1c and body weight by about 1.2% and 5 lbs respectively. Results were statistically significant. Gastrointestinal side effects were more common with semaglutide than placebo but similar to other GLP-1 agonists in the market.

The above results are promising for oral semaglutide to receive FDA approval.


Landmark NIH study: ultra-processed diet increases body weight

Common sense and knowledge tell us that whole food is healthier than processed food. It is nice to now have a rigorous randomized clinical trial proving this concept.

The NIH study shows that even when food calories, energy density, macronutrients, sugar, sodium, and fiber were matched, individuals consuming ultra-processed food gained weight compared to those on unprocessed meals.

This is a landmark study as it can influence guidelines/advice at the national level.